Is shock of numbers gone in virus war?


Health Cabinet Secretary for Health Mutahi Kagwe. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Today, let me ramble. I have a feeling I’ll be speaking for many. What do you do when your selling gambit starts losing its bite?

The shock value of the deadly effects of the coronavirus pandemic have been its selling gambit. However, it appears to be waning with every passing day. And at the pace it is moving, soon it might join that of corruption, who’s shock value in Kenya was lost eons ago. As a tweep put it, “Don’t tell us you will reveal who stole what in that scandal. That’s stale. Tell us when the next one is, its scale and who is involved. That’s what’s news in Kenya.”

Anyway, traffic jams are back in full swing, the limited passenger carrying capacities imposed on public service vehicles are being flouted, and I long stopped waiting with rapt attention for the daily briefing by Cabinet Secretary for Health Mutahi Kagwe.

And I’m in good company. It’s a tough place for any seller to be in. Of course, it would be comparatively easier to solve were it another product on sale; but I’d be oversimplifying the equation, equating the dilemma to a commercial product.

With deep political, social and economic issues in play, the situation is far more complex. Further, I’m not a doctor so will not pretend to dilute nor understand the magnitude of the problem.

Suffice to say, the cabinet secretary is a public relations expert who has been internationally recognised for his sterling job at handling this crisis and still what to sell now is one challenge that seems to baffle everyone.

What do you do when numbers no longer move people? Numbers are the cornerstone of selling. There is no grey area with numbers. A human resource manager once shared with me that she wishes targets across all departments were as clear as that of sales. But numbers clearly aren’t moving the shock value needle.

The world stood still when Italy lost 936 lives in 24 hours! Now America is losing thousands every 24 hours and is fast approaching 100,000 deaths! And yet their President is pushing for the economy to be re-opened!

Here in Kenya, the interest has been reduced to a nonchalant, “Wamepatikana wangapi leo?” (How many cases today?) in reference to Mr Kagwe’s daily briefings. The numbers predicted in March by the Director of Health Dr Patrick Amoth were that we would be having 5,000 to 8,000 infections by mid-May. That we haven’t is cause for joy. Or maybe we have but haven’t tested enough. Either way, that we’re not dropping like flies nor hearing of hospitals flooded with Covid-19 infected patients, only complicates the sale further.

Where am I going with all this? I’m not sure; as I said, I’m just thinking out loud; but don’t abandon me. We’re in this together. In fact, let me know what you make of this crisis?